Mountain sales booming

Downtown shows second straight month of sales tax gains

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At a glance

Total sales tax revenues

August 2007 - $1,540,692

August 2006 - $1,436,115

Percent change - 7.28 percent

Sales Tax Year-to-Date

January to August 2007 - $13,264,336

January to August 2006 - $12,273,111

Percent change - 8.08 percent

— Sales tax revenues collected from mountain-area businesses far surpassed expectations last month, according to sales tax figures released by the city of Steamboat Springs. Those figures also reveal the downtown area experienced its second straight month of gains after a slump earlier this year.

Steamboat's sales, building use and accommodation taxes for August grew upon their 2006 levels in every category, and year-to-date figures are reflecting gains as well, with total sales tax collection up 8.08 percent compared to last year.

While most of the growth in sales tax revenue was on target with projections, the August figures for the mountain were so much higher than expected that city revenue supervisor Kim Weber had to check and recheck the figures before she believed them.

In August, mountain-combined sales taxes rose 9.39 percent to $241,960, from $221,185 in 2006.

"The most surprising for me was that the mountain was so far up," Weber said. "Both lodging and miscellaneous retail were up in the mountain area in particular."

When both mountain and downtown sales tax figures were down in the spring and early summer, many business owners blamed ongoing construction projects in both areas. Downtown sales tax revenues posted four straight months of losses before beginning to recover in July.

Sales tax collection in the U.S. Highway 40 corridor rose from $544,048 to $603,428, a 10.91 percent gain over the same time period last year.

While Tracy Barnett, executive director of Mainstreet Steamboat Springs, said she is thrilled with the improvement shown in the downtown area, it is too soon to tell if the slump is truly over.

"Hopefully it shows some sort of turn has happened," Barnett said. "We'll have to wait until December to know for sure - whether it's real or just a fluke."

Weber also expressed surprise with the low level of growth in West Steamboat, where sales tax revenue rose only 0.32 percent, to $235,784.

"It has been, in the past, increasing much more steadily than the downtown area," Weber said.

Compared to other mountain communities, with its 8.08 percent growth in year-to-date taxable sales, Steamboat Springs is ahead of Aspen and Vail, which posted gains of 5.92 and 6.41 percent, respectively. However, growth in Glenwood Springs and Breckenridge, at 12.89 percent and 9.07 percent, respectively, is outpacing that of Steamboat Springs.

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